I hope you all had a Happy Tu B'Shevat.
Never heard of it? It's often called the Jewish Arbor Day, since traditionally we plant trees. But it would more accurately be called the Birthday of Trees, since the holiday evolved as the way to mark when a fruit tree is mature enough for harvest. Most people don't realize that trees were of such importance in early cultures that there are laws in the Bible to protect them.
In recent years, some Jewish congregations have begun a special Tu B'Shevat Seder. (A Seder is a symbolic meal that is eaten in a particular order.) It includes four cups of grape juice, starting with white grape and progressing to purple, to symbolize the move from the barrenness of winter to the promise of fall harvest.
There are also two plates of fruit, the first plate is fruit with large seeds, such as avocados, dates and olives, to symbolize big dreams and big accomplishments. The second plate is fruit with small seeds, such as carob, figs and pomegranates, to recognize the importance of small, generous actions. And there are almonds, which mark spring in Israel with an abundance of blossoms, and remind us that sometimes the hardest tasks have the sweetest reward.
With apologies to the groundhog, it is Tu B'Shevat that restores my spirit with the hope of spring. Hope your Tu B'Shevat was great.
Happy Birthday, Trees!